February 14, 2012

The Mountain Democrat


Rails and trails once again on county’s front burner

The Mountain Democrat’s No. 10 story of 2011 came roaring back with renewed vigor at Tuesday’s El Dorado County Board of Supervisors meeting. Two agenda items dealing with rails and trails pushed the board discussion and public testimony to nearly 8 p.m.
A license agreement to authorize an excursion train project for five years on the Sacramento-Placerville Transportation Corridor was defeated “as proposed” by the supervisors. The agreement would have included the Joint Powers Authority that “owns” the corridor and the Placerville & Sacramento Valley Railroad — a non-profit excursion rail organization.
The license agreement proposal was recommended by a majority of the county’s Parks and Recreation Commission. Bob Smart is the commissioner for supervisorial District 3 appointed by Supervisor Jack Sweeney. He has often represented a middle ground between the rails and trails factions and is generally a proponent of compromise. He got some credit for the commission’s endorsement of the license agreement.
On Wednesday, Smart also spoke by phone to the Mountain Democrat and noted that  ”the commission said to the two sides, ‘You get credit for working together’ (on behalf of El Dorado County, not Folsom or Sacramento County, where the excursion train groups are located).”
Supervisor Ron Briggs recommended that the county withdraw from the JPA, which so far has prevented the county from dismantling railroad infrastructure in order to continue development of a multi-use El Dorado Trail from Diamond Springs to the Sacramento County line. His motion never made it to a vote and he characterized it later as a “shoot-first thing.”
Deputy county counsel Paula Frantz reminded the board that “We don’t own the (rail infrastructure) in the corridor; the JPA owns it, and if we withdraw from the JPA we’ll have no control over the use of it… (However), within the scope of your agreements with the JPA, you can say ‘no train.’ That’s within our rights as the easement holder.”
Briggs has led the board in its effort over the past 18 months to extend the trail and limit rail use to approximately nine miles between Missouri Flat Road and Shingle Springs.
“Part of my frustration in the last year and a half is that we’ve had the same meeting four times,” Briggs said in a phone call Wednesday morning. “I viewed the license agreement as an end-run by the train guys,” reiterating a comment he’d made during the meeting.
“I believe the will of this board has been clearly in favor of the trail, and I’m not in favor of further cluttering use of the trail. We’ve voted four-to-one (to keep the trail as the primary use of the corridor), and yet I’m seeing more train proposals. My recommendation to withdraw from the JPA isn’t about the JPA. It’s a message to the train guys to stop with the excursion trains (issue) that are just getting in the way of the trail,” he said at that time.
County Counsel Lou Green followed  on Frantz’s description of the county’s interests and further clarified the issue of the license agreement.
“If you OK the license, they’ll have the right to run a train, and you will have to take that along with whatever else you want to do,” Green explained.
Board Chairman John Knight several times reminded the audience that the  topic at hand was the license agreement and not the merits of rails versus trails.
“Stick to the item. And I’ll jump on anyone who slams the other side,” Knight threatened.
Late in Tuesday’s session, Briggs made the motion to deny the license agreement. He and Supervisor Ray Nutting were outvoted by Supervisors Norma Santiago, Knight and Jack Sweeney. Later, the board unanimously passed Knight’s motion, which rejected the license agreement as written and instead directs county staff to “work with the train people on a ‘Shingle-Up’ project,” Briggs noted by phone.
That refers to the right of way between Shingle Springs and Missouri Flat which the board designated as multi-use including rail use — known generally by the trail advocates as the Shingle Plan or the Shingle Compromise.
Frantz clarified by e-mail Thursday: “The board voted to deny the license as proposed, but send the JPA a potential revision, limiting the excursion rail use within EDC to the area they had identified (e,g, the area between South Shingle and Missouri Flat).”
In a second directive also passed unanimously, “the board voted to have John Knight work with staff to explore the possibility of dissolving the JPA, rather than having the county withdraw while leaving the remainder of the JPA intact,” she explained.
When rails and trails hits the board agenda next is uncertain at this time. But it may repeat as a top story of 2012.
This story falls on page "A1"
Short URL: http://www.mtdemocrat.com/?p=140683

Chris DaleyPosted by  on Jan 26 2012
Last Login: Sun Feb 12 17:55:35 2012
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  1. [...] Daley on Jan 26 2012. Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this [...]
  2. White Flower Girl
    Well there goes Nutting (clueless) and Briggs (yapper) trying to destroy the historical nature of our county once again.
  3. Funny how Supervisor Briggs characterizes the train license negotiations which have been moving forward since the JPA issued the RFP in January of 2008 as an “end run”, with it’s thousands of man-hours invested and hundreds of pages of communications, plans, and reports, while the barely one year old “Shingle Plan” STILL does not have ANY documentation beyond a two page “concept sheet”!
    No credible finance numbers. No truly defined project timeline. No long term maintenance plan or budget. No guarantees that ANY of the implied promises Friends of El Dorado Trail made to sell this deal will EVER be realized by the community!
    “El Dorado County can do what they want with the tracks!” FALSE
    “The tracks can be removed at NO cost to the County!” FALSE
    “Hundreds of Thousands of dollars worth of track materials can be transferred to the Railroad Park!” FALSE
    “We can just withdraw from the JPA!” FALSE
    It seems that White Flower Girl may have really hit the nail on the head…..
    • Thank you Mr Harville for your post.
      You have spelled it out so simply. Sign of a good man.
      The excursion train would at least bring in tax revenue. A bike/hiking path brings in zip & only costs the County taxpayers money. The right away is large enough for all uses, but the trails people refuse to live & let live alongside an excursion train. The “trail only” people look entirely selfish to me. (my opinion) And then there are the completely corrupt people who want to make money on land that has an attractive hiking trail & no chance of a whistlin’ train blowing through, like it did for generations & generations up until recently. Those Supervisors who are hell bent on killing the excursion train, will face one hell of a time getting re-elected. So if you’re against an excursion train and you’re running for Public Office, get ready to spend a whole lot more on your campaign than you anticipated.
      • On the other hand
        From memory, I believe the cost of co-existing trails/rails is something crazy like $2M per mile and the trails are at least partially subsidized through grants. Trails money can be found on short notice, rails money is more complex including a train and operation costs. Also, there are “spacing” regulations between rails and trails which has driven the either/or conversation.
        It is not so cut and dry with the good and selfish perspective…
        • I can address those concerns directly. Rails WITH Trails project costs are largely determined not only by topography, but by the speed and frequency of the rail traffic. Please refer to the rails-with-trails section of the Rails to Trails Conservancy website for some VERY valuable insights into this issue. While costs can become extreme along a 60 mph mainline, a low speed excursion line has far fewer obstacles. In fact, not only do the trails in Folsom cross the tracks multiple times, there are stretches which run directly adjacent to the tracks, with NO fencing or barriers required at all!
          Regarding the $2M per mile figure, it was driven largely by high end estimates for the most challenging choke points, most of which are in the Shingle Springs to Missouri Flat section. It was then extrapolated for the entire 25 miles to come up with the $50M project cost so often used by Mike Kenison and Friends of El Dorado Trail. Deliberately ignored by Mr. Kenison and others is the fact that much of the contested 17 miles between the county line and Shingle Springs can be completed alongside the tracks at a price very comparable to building ON the railbed, especially when the leveraging effect of volunteerism is taken into account. Remember, the train folks repaired a washout near Latrobe for about $10,000 last spring – the County, on the other hand, has spent over $400,000 recently on a very similar washout in Placerville.
          Let’s address trail and/or rail funding next. The grants you are referring to are almost always MATCHING grants, meaning the County still has to be able to afford to pay huge sums of money for this trail. Make no mistake! The “Free” trail concept you hear of so frequently only refers to “Phase One – Item One” of this proposed project, and has been shown to be completely false. Also keep in mind that “gubmint” money is essentially our taxes returned to us as pennies on the dollar, only after being processed through an elaborate bureaucracy! Not a very efficient model.
          As far as rail funding being complex, nothing could be farther from the truth! The 45 ton locomotive and 53 foot excursion car now standing by for service on this line were donations by the State Railroad Museum, and have been completely restored by local volunteers using private membership dues and donations. The Skagit Motorcar and other light equipment which was used to give over 3000 rides in 2011 is also rarin’ to go for 2012! Operations costs are a function of ridership, and are MORE than covered by the suggested donations for each ride.
          Even capital costs for this particular railroad are quite managable. The reactivation of the White Rock Road grade crossing, which has been fully approved by Sac County and the CPUC, will be completed at minimal cost, due to the dedicated volunteers and supporters committed to the project. The next major capital project will be Latrobe Road, but will not be necessary for another year or so. Plenty of time AND resources for a project that size.
          I hope these facts have helped shed some light on this issue, and that they open people’s minds to the possibility that completion of the El Dorado Trail might actually occur faster AND cheaper working WITH the railroad groups rather than against them!
  4. White Flower Girl
    Thank you Jim, Those tow remind me of a yapping Chiwawa and a big lazy Saint Bernard running as a pack of two.
    Just a wild guess, campaign monies promised somewhere down in the South County? Ie: get rid of the tracks, get nice campaign fund padding?
  5. The Shingle Plan is a great compromise, and will give EDC both a built out train section and train park and an incredible trail connection from Shingle Springs to Folsom. This preserves history and builds something for all to use in EDC. EDC will do what we want with our 2.7 million dollar investment. We will have something for everyone. You are correct that the Shingle Plan is just beginning and it will grow from here.
  6. How, Mike? Details please…
  7. So all the readers understand Mike Kenison is Ray Nuttings trail building advocate appointed to the Trails Advisory Committee on 4-12-11. His intentions are to ax the train and tracks as much as possible. Michael Drobesh comment above outlines perfectly the political perspective. Nutting is the vulnerable supervisor currently up for re-election, I’m guessing Kenison will be working very diligently on his campaign? Maybe he can fund it too.
  8. Ya think Chuck what’s in it for Ray anyway
  9. My guess is he is being pulled very hard from some of the developers in the South county to oppose the rails and insure nice quiet peaceful walking trails will be in place for their future subdivisions. (Just a hunch)
    This mind set surprises me from Ray coming from the logging industry, large rural land owner, and a bit of a history buff.
    To answer your question in plain English, I guess money, and promise of political support?
    • You just used South County and developers in the same sentence. Not really a Pleasant Valley, Somerset, Fair Play, Grizzly, Mt Aukum issue.
      The distant future, potential development lands are much farther west along with some legacy family ranching operations. Maybe you should ask Ray instead of speculating….
  10. Are there any South county developers with any money left? This train/trail issue is starting to become a third rail issue for any local politician.
    It’s fun to watch how they explain their stance on the issue.
  11. FYI, the rails/trails issue is a county wide issue. each supervisor gets a vote. Simple terms, the issue goes beyond each supervisory district.
  12. Very well put Chuck
  13. Very well put Chuck, Ray doesn’t do but for Ray so it’s all about $$$$ as WFG said and it does go way beyond the sole supervisor,
  14. Chuck, you need to talk to Ray instead of speculating here! Chuck, the Shingle Plan preserves 9 miles for trains and the starting points are centered in EDC. This means the Ecomonic Benefits stay here in EDC, if there are any from the trains. Trail Economic Benefits are well know. Just look at the trail on the American River Parkway at millions a year. A connection to ARP and a trail to Shingle Springs, today, not 30 years down the road. What don’t you like about that plan Chuck?
    • Mike, It is about 7.5 miles from the Shingle Springs depot to the end of track just west of Missouri Flat Road, and less than 6 miles from Shingle Springs to the new depot at El Dorado. Where do you come up with 9 miles?
      As far as economic benefits go, exactly what legal mechanism are you using to ensure those benefits stay in EDC? Under your “Shingle Plan” nearly a MILLION DOLLARS of those “benefits” go to an out-of-state contractor who incorporated his business in Nevada so he would not have to comply with the California Non-Profit Integrity Act of 2004. Materials for improvements on the rail line are usually purchased as close to the project as possible, Mike, so tell me again how the “Shingle Plan” helps EDC as compared to developing ALL of the 25 miles of rail in the County?
      You then make reference to the “well known” economic benefits of trails. In the past, you have taken many of your figures from the American River Parkway Financial Needs Study Update of 2006. This study clearly shows that trail construction and maintenance are the largest cost drivers in the Parkway budget, yet one of the least efficient economic benefit generators. The study goes on to show that the river itself is the major economic driver in the Parkway program. The ARP, Lake Tahoe, in fact MOST of the rail/trail examples you have used to tout the economic benefits of trails are centered on a major recreational waterway! There ARE economic benefits to most trails, Mike, it’s just the examples you choose to promote your plan are not representative of the conditions we have on the SPTC.
      You close by saying that your plan offers a connection from the ARP to Shingle Springs “today”. Even allowing for a little poetic license, your claim seems to ignore the reality that EDCs request to the JPA to allow removal of the tracks was denied, and the only option left, a lawsuit, is something the supervisors have repeatedly and forcefully said they will not pursue!
      I can’t speak for Chuck, but it seems that there is PLENTY to not like about your plan!
  15. Perhaps these grounds can be used to generate revenue. There are vast parklands that could host solar arrays. Thin film technology is at the point that it in the short and long term these projects can and will show a profit. As former preservation commissioner here at the county level, beware anybody who touts what history we have preserved. These people are only interested in preserving thier own positions at the public trough. Parks need now to generate revenue and not simply for thier chummy-chum-chums in the local developement communities. Thin film solar arrays on our parklands.
    • Mac, i am very aware of the Solar industry and its lack of financial viability. We need to be very afraid of Solar, mass transit, high speed rail, and the Federal funding of anything! How about a self funded local park or trail!
      • Yes be very afraid of Liberal Big Government projects….unless a conservative repub proposes a colony on the moon! Then it’s OK.
      • …Afraid of Federal funding? Mike, isn’t your Shingle Plan almost entirely dependent on government grants?
  16. What the h… are you talking about…. what part of my proposal is unclear?You will not turn my clear comment into anything other. Your reply is off point.How bout parks and trails self funded with solar arrays What we all need is to be wary of your kind of spinnig of a story. Thin film solar arrays on our parklands.
  17. Who pays for it Mac? That was my point.
  18. Perhaps the monies used for dog parks…or…any of a number of self centered (read crazy} programs kept afloat by such corrupt organisations and departments. I’m sure that your county as well has a plethora of such and its high time to wake up to the fact that scounderals have infiltrated our feel good programs. (read parks depts.,Preservation commissions / planning depts. as welll as a host of others’) Thin film solar arrays on our parklands. Because a specific company has problems does not negate the quality or utility of their products.
  19. Mac, thhe cost of solar is still not there. I know prices have come down signifi antly, but not enough so far. So you are from out of the county? Where do you type from? If you think i am liberal then you are calling it wrong. Fiscal conservative here MAC. Lets balance the budget and cut spending.
  20. Mike, funny you should mention I talk to Ray. I did just that today. One highlight of our discussion would be to allow the rail folks five years to get something together business plan wise.
    As I see it, it would make the most sense to allow the train guys the first opportunity to utilize the tracks. It’s a relatively simple methodology. The track are there. The track, the track bed, etc is there and paid for. With a small investment a rail business could be up and running.
    On the other hand, to build a trail (Class 1) as you seem to insist El Dorado County needs more of, a major project would have to be undertaken. Removal of the tracks, ties, hazardous material, environmental impact reports and so on. I realize you work for corporate America, but you must comprehend these things cost money? A lot of Money.
    Why don’t we do the responsible thing and give the rail guys an opportunity to make it work first?
    • A five year license. What part of the track was he talking about Chuck. It was Shingle up Chuck. You need to understand trains and cost and the fact that they have been at it for 15 years and whats another 5 Chuck? Come on, you would have fired these Folsom guys if they worked for you. We want trains. We can see how it works for 9 miles. They are asking for 25. How long of a ride is 25 Chuck? 5 hours! How long before they rebuild the 25 for big trains Chuck? They used to say 15 years, then it was 10 and now they say 5. Please, you want to have a real conversation about the best use of the corridor, then lets have lunch. I know you have not had the time to sit down on talk about this. I am still willing. You want to here the other side of the story. I listen, do you?
  21. What about trains does Chuck not understand, Mike? You and I have exchanged dozens of posts on this subject, and Chuck has been here from the beginning, listening to both sides. Your last post was gibberish, claiming an understanding of numbers that it is clear YOU don’t comprehend yourself!
    Have the El Dorado Western folks failed because they have been restoring the Shay locomotive for 16 years and are still FAR from finished? Heck No! Have YOU failed because you have been promoting the El Dorado Trail for 15 years and it is still not finished?
    Mike, the RFP for excursion trains was issued in 2008. The restoration of the Whitcomb locomotive is complete and was only started three years ago. The rebuilt signals for White Rock Road will be installed soon, and we have over $10k in private grants pledged to the P&SVRR already this year!
    You have underestimated us from day one, Mike, and virtually EVERY prediction you have ever made about the railroad has been wrong, nearly every claim you have made can be proven false. Why on earth would Chuck believe anything you say?
  22. Solar arrays are a business model that should work. After initial costs the maintanance is minimal.The sun does not rely on present, past or future economic trends. El sol is also impartial to whom it chooses to shine. To bad our counties cannot say the same….business and individuals also tend toward partiality.That is if you truly are concerned about these matters.Thin film solar arrays on our parklands.
  23. Must be something in it for Ray, that’s why he is involved.

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